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Winchester Cathedral: WWI Windows and Great Screen Refurbishment

April 30 2019

Client: Winchester Cathedral
Project: WWI Windows and Great Screen Refurbishment
Location: Winchester Cathedral, UK

The benefits of Blencowe Scaffoldings specialist scaffold division and their expertise combined once again during vital restoration work at Winchester Cathedral.  One part of the cathedral’s ‘Conservation in Action’ project has focused on the celebrated Great Screen and the building’s famous World War One windows,  and presented particular challenges arising from the fabric and importance of the building, as Pat Blencowe CEO of Blencowe Scaffolding explains.

“As with our previous work at Winchester Cathedral, we have had to combine the need for clear, multi-level access with a structure that reflects the character of the building and its ongoing use by both staff and public,” he says.  “Once again this pointed directly to the use of our specialist scaffold system and the company’s associated equipment.”

Pat Blencowe explained that using the modular scaffold design required far less material than tube and fitting alternatives enabling a more aesthetic installation to be specified.  Additionally, the clear walkways created – there being virtually no cross-bracing – and the scaffold’s ability to follow the contours, arches and columns associated with such a structure, were important benefits for the specialist glaziers and stonemasons working at the site. 

“The Great Screen, which dates from the mid-1400’s and sits behind the altar, has undergone its first cleaning and restoration programme since the 1890’s,” Pat adds, “and required a scaffold that provided seven lifts across its full 14-metre width.  Our installation using our specialist scaffold division provided unique access for the delicate stone restoration work to be conducted, much of which is undertaken using soft brushes and vacuum cleaners – operations that clearly gain from clear and unobstructed scaffold decks.”  

The work on the nine World War One windows in the cathedral’s North Transept and Presbytery aisles has called for both internal and external scaffold structures, all of which had to ensure there was no risk of damage to the cathedral’s walls.  The lightweight design of the scaffold system contributed significantly to meeting this need while also acting as support for a combination of Monoflex sheeting and translucent panels to be incorporated.  Modern Access have also made extensive use of the systems Protect Panel design which, installed to a height of three metres, creates secure barriers between public access and the working areas. 

The restoration work, undertaken by McNeilage Conservation for the cathedral, was designed not only to bring key areas of Winchester Cathedral back to their original condition for the benefit of all visitors, but also to help ensure that the world famous and highly important structure is maintained well into the future.  Benefitting from Heritage Lottery Funding and, in the case of the Great Screen restoration work, support from the Friends of Winchester Cathedral, it is notable both from a technical point of view and also as an access solution that is wholly sympathetic to the building and the location. 

“We are once again delighted to be involved in the work at Winchester Cathedral, particularly as it underlines the specialisation that we have developed in this area,” adds Pat Blencowe.  “The use of our specialist scaffold and access systems – for us the ‘go to’ solution for work of this type – is centred on the benefits it offers both to the specialists undertaking the delicate work involved and all those staffing and visiting the cathedral itself.”






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